“Every MMDA administration must build on each other’s accomplishments.”
More often than not, every time a new MMDA administration comes in, some kind of a new traffic scheme is planned and implemented. It is obvious that MMDA’s traffic planners do not believe in the saying that one doesn’t fix what ain’t broke. Somehow, they feel that it’s necessary to introduce something new or juggle an existing program to perhaps make it appear that they can come up with something innovative.
In the next few days, MMDA will implement a modified number coding scheme that will theoretically take 40 percent of private vehicles off the road. In a piece a couple of weeks ago, I pointed out that taking that many private vehicles off the road is too much and might not be sustainable in the long run. MMDA however, is bent on implementing the program. Once again, the MMDA should reconsider this decision and simply stick to the old number coding system of taking 20 percent of private vehicles off the road.
Twenty percent is a lot, in actual fact. But this has to be done the whole day as it used to without allowing any windows. MMDA must bear in mind that traffic management does not only consist of taking vehicles off the road on a given day but also involves engineering, enforcement and education. In other words, there is a smorgasbord of activities that make up what is known as traffic management and MMDA should practice this. Taken all together, these activities if undertaken as they should will contribute significantly to improving traffic flow which is the ultimate objective of traffic management.
MMDA must revisit the antiquated traffic signaling system in order to modernize it. Installing up-to-date intelligent traffic signals which are self-adjusting can improve traffic flow in a big way. What we have are the old manually fixed traffic signals which are no help in a congested metropolitan area like the National Capital Region.
If MMDA would only take time to conduct an honest-to- goodness survey of the entire road system of the NCR, it will probably be surprised at the number of roads already lost to commerce, housing and leisure like basketball courts. These lost roads must be reclaimed for vehicle use. By doing the survey, roads that need to be repaired, improved, redesigned and roads that need to be built can be identified.
Parking is also one big problem in the NCR. It is slowing traffic flow. This is because many vehicle owners are using the road for parking. This includes old unserviceable vehicles that are no longer roadworthy. Add all those vulcanizing and repair shops that use the roads and we can calculate how much damage parking is doing in slowing traffic flow.
The traffic flow in the Metro area cannot be solved overnight. It is the accumulation of many programs spread over several MMDA administrations that will eventually improve traffic. Every MMDA administration must build on each other’s accomplishments to eventually improve traffic in the Metro area. It is of course quite understandable that an MMDA chairman comes along and wants a quick traffic fix. We have seen this happen before.
Unfortunately, there is no quick fix. No major city in the world has succeeded in solving its traffic problems the ways traffic planners want it. One reason is that traffic management is a very dynamic process that needs constant attention and supervision. There is no such thing as traffic taking care of itself once a plan is implemented. This is true especially for the NCR. Until not too long ago, there was no coordinated planning in the development of the urban sprawl of the NCR.
All the seventeen cities and municipalities developed independently of each other until the Metro Manila Commission was created in the 1970s to inject some kind of central planning like the waste disposal system. By that time, all the LGUs were already basically as we see them today. Because of this, the NCR has a highly mixed land use making it harder to implement traffic and transportation programs to improve traffic problems. The Makati central business district for instance is surrounded by enclosed subdivisions. Once a motorist drives into the CBD, it is very hard to get out. Why? Because ordinary motorists cannot exit using subdivision roads. This is the same in all enclosed subdivisions in the Metro area.
Perhaps MMDA can pick one activity like putting up a state-of-the-art traffic control center or installing 4,000 more CCTVs for better traffic enforcement. A modern 911 call system is another that can be considered. One step at a time is perhaps the best way to do it because taking so many vehicles off the road is never a permanent traffic solution.